Kismet

Lost legends
By the Might of Kord!
Did I ever tell you about how Terios Recieved the symbol of Kord branded on his Chest?

Well it all started after I attempted to steal an ornate dagger from Him and while we all know how that played out, what You didn’t know was that same dagger was received from a Barbarian Monk named Baltog, whom while fighting in the arena of the Labrynthian Isles taught Terios of the ways of Kord, and in his death gave Terios the means to Escape his life as a gladiator and allow him to channel his rage into a indominatable force for the glory of Kord. Needless to say I was moved by the story and felt compelled to help him find the answers he sought.
The dagger was emblazoned with the symbol of Kord on the hilt, and while ornately designed it was fairly unremarkable. Having spent time with the devout Monks of the Thunderpeak Monastery in the province of Highdale, theirs was the most complete teachings of Kord in which I had come across in all my years, so I suggested it be best for us to start there.
The trip was long, and quite difficult and while I was much better prepared for the elements this time around it was still a very difficult journey. 9 months had past since we decided to set out for the monastery and finally we crossed into the lands of my childhood. A calm came over me as I reflected on the many journeys that have now lead me back here. At the base of a sheer mountain, cliff hidden in plain sight, lay the treacherous goat pass, known only to those who have traversed it prior. As we began assending the trail I noticed the Mantra of Kord etched into the rock.
“Thunder echoes across the countryside. Threatening dark clouds tumble down from the frozen north. Rain lashes the shores, while reavers on dragon-prow ships scour the seas, searching for glory, battle, and plunder. Smoke and death drifts on the wind, carrying with them the sounds of clashing steel and death cries from the fallen. And in all these things is Kord— he who is named Storm Father, Lord of Battle, and Warmaster.”
Before assending the steep slopes I paused to say a prayer at the epitaph, and then we began the dangerous trek to the summit. The howling of the wind and the bitter cold pummeled us as we climbed. We traveled until darkness fell and without a safe haven in site, we made camp and rested until morning.
As dawn broke and we continued our climb we came to a crossroads in the Rocky pass. Before us stood 4 separate paths. My last trip through the pass I took the center, however the howling of the wind and the bitter cold made it a dangerous path. The others snaked around the rocks and disappeared into the snow. Terios and I decided to leave the decision to Kord. He then produced a 4 sided object from his pack, rolled it and chose the path that was originally attributed which coincedentally was also the same path I had taken, apparently the gods do have a sense of humor.
Unlike my last trip, the wind calmed and the bitter cold subsided and the howl of wolves could now be heard in the distance. As we continued down the goat pass we came to another outcropping of stone walls. These much shorter then the dividing walls which tower over 60 feet, there were 3 platforms all standing about 20 feet high.
At the base of the closest one was a large pool of blood, and while the blood pool was too large for any man to survive there was not a single sign of a body, whatever caused this pool didnt leave anyrhing behind. I launched myself off of Terios’s shoulder and onto the outcropping to get a better vantage point. As I pulled myself up I immediately noticed a huge mass of fluffy white fur. The beast while curled up in the snow, was still nearly my height if not taller. Terios called up, and I immediately shh’d him. I tossed a rope down and attempted to stab a dagger into the ice. However it did not take. So I slowly lowered myself down the otherside and braced for him to climb but as we began climbing our rope began slipping toward the lowered point seeing as this was also unsuccessful we both lowered ourselves down and snuck around to the back of the ice shelf.
The shelf lowered to a scalable 5 foot ledge however Terios and I could hear the wolves howls getting louder, so we attempted to climb up the shelf and silently take out the beast so that we could defend the higher position. As we crept up Terios lifted his axe and as he cleaved down on the dire wolfs chest I pierced my blade through a soft gushy spot behind the ear and into the beast brain. As its body fell limp the wolf let out a. Weak yelp, however for a direwolf, I weak yelp is like a War trumpet. And as it expired a pack of seven wolves funneled into the pass. They All looked to the location of the call and howled and As they did, from the two other ice shelves, arose two more direwolves.
Feeling our attack may have just rung the dinner bell, Terios and I prepared for battle. One of the direwolves jumped down to the ground while the other leaped across the gap and was now standing over its dead kin. Focusing our attack on the immediate threat, Terios lifted his axe and brought it down in a cleaving motion on the beasts back. The cracking of ribs could be heard as the direwolf flinched in pain. As the beast recoiled I slipped past it and buried my short blade deeper within the wound and openned the beasts chest cavity further. It howled in response and two wolves rushed to its aid one diving at Terios knocking him from the platform the other flanking me nearly biting my hand off.
As Terios landed on his back the wolves began surrounding him snapping their jaws waiting for the cue to strike. As he rose to his feet he cleaved nmn at the direwolf grazing his shoulder. From where I stood see that his situation was dire. So in an attempt to draw some attention, I swung for the wolf I front of me and as I missed I leapt down to the ground below. One wolf noticed and started to approach. He swiped at me with its claw but missed, and soon after down came the direwolf and the other wolf with /it. I dodged out of the way as the other wolf’s fangs searched for my flesh. But was unable to avoid the giant paw of the direwolf as it swatted me back. Staggering back as I could feel the blood soak the underside of my armor I knew I was in no position to assist Terios, so I struck out at the huge wolf, slashing it across the snout dazing it. And then I leapt back up the wall using the techniques I learned while with the monks. While unable to get to the very top, I was able to grasp the lip of the ice face.
As I looked toward Terios I could see him take another swipe at the direwolf with his axe but thvis time the wolf grabbed the great axe ripped it from his hand and hurled it away, in advertently killing another wolf. I called out for him to use the dagger of Kord, and as he unsheathed the dagger the symbol of Kord was glowing bright white, laying his life in the hands of his god Terios thrust the dagger into the face of the direwolf and in a flash of bright light an explosion of lightning erupted from the contact followed by a deafening boom, that sent the wolves flying back and the dire wolf into an ice wall at the edge of the cliffs. I pulled myself to the ledge and watched in awe as Terios approached the smoking carcass of the direwolf and with a might roar heaved it over the side. As the remaining wolves began to gather and regroup Terios returned to his axe and hefted it up out of its meaty resting place. I took that moment to gather my strength and press the attack as 2 of the remaining wolves leapt for the platform I was on, their claws finding purchase as they dangled from the ledge I thruster my blade through the face of one of the wolves as it crashed to the ground in a bloody scaleless heap. The other clawed his way to the platform and attempted to bite narrowly missing my leg. I responded by burying my blade into its neck. As it fell lifeless, I looked to Terios who was now dispatching the last of the wolves and moving in on the badly bleeding direwolf. As he brought his axe down in a mighty blow, striking the beast it howled in pain. Seeing my chance to strike I leapt into the air and dropped kicked the wolf knocking it to its back killing It.
Bleeding and broken we made camp and rested the night, I slept while Terios took his time skinning the hides of the remaining dire wolves, he does that a lot. After an uncomfortable sleep and a cold breakfast we packed away our bedrolls and continued our way up the mountain. The rest of the climb was as difficult as it was dangerous. Terios would have fallen to his death had I not grabbed his horn and pulled him back to the wall. Alas we made it to the top and as we pulled ourselves over the ledge there in front of us on the stone steps stood a hulking Goliath Monk of Kord dressed in full battle Gear, guarding the pass. As we approached he was instantly interested in the dagger that rested on Terios’ waist. While he looked menacing there was something familiar about his demeanor, remembering my time there, I bowed my head in reverence. The Goliath returned the bow, Terios did the same and received the same in return. At that the Monk turned and began ascending the steps, We silently followed behind as he led us into the monastery.
As the Goliath pushed open the huge stone door we were led to a communal dinner chamber where the monks of the order were sitting down to eat. As I peered around the room, I noticed some old faces along with a few new ones. While all were adorned with leather armor embroidered with the symbol of Kord only one stood out amongst the rest. An elf, seated at the End of the table stood out like a sore thumb, while all the others were shaved completely hairless, as was custom when they took their vows of silence, this elf had a full head of flowing hair black as night, tied up in the back to expose his pointed ears. He eyed us as the Goliath ushered us to a few empty seats across from the elf. As we sat I noticed the gaze of the elf trained on me. From the moment I saw him I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach about him. The Goliath returned with 2 bowls of Thunderpeak monasteries finest stew (comprised mainly of potatoes and goat meat). I remained silent as I studied the elf across from us. I would have been happy with eating my stew and going about my business, but Terios, he had to talk. As we ate Terios asked the elf why he had not yet shaved his head like all the other members, whether he was just passing through or was residing within the monastery for an extended engagement. The elf told us how he was comming up on his 2nd year at the monastery and how he was waiting for someone. I sensed almost immediately that this elf was not all that he seemed but I remained silent only speaking when spoken to. We talked of the food and how a few locally growing plants can change the flavor entirely. The elf inquired about us and our pilgrimage, Terios lied and told him his name was “kurse”, to this day I still know not why. Then his attention was switched to me. I knew he was fishing for something so I cast out a few lines of my own. Telling Him 3 and a half years ago I came here after a Warrior Priest of Kord saved me from drowning when the ship I was working on went down in a storm. While I was unsure of whether or not he bought my tale he seemed amused by my telling of it. Moments later he finished his stew and took his leave. Before he left I asked him what he did before comming to the temple. He turned and walked away with out answering, then before he completely disappeared from view he turned and said “I bounced around from here to there, but such is the life of a Civilian.” And with that he was gone from view. My gut was right, I knew that I was the one he waited for. Terios leaned in with a concerned look and asked what he meant, I glanced over and responded with, “not here”. We proceeded to finish our meals and were then escorted to our room, as it was late and we were weary from the trip. As we arrived at the humble lodgings the Goliath nodded as he closed the door behind us. As the latch clicked I rushed to the door to listen as the sounds of heavy footsteps trailed away from the room. I then began thuroughly investigating the room to ensure nobody was around and listening. Concerned Terios turned to me and asked what I had gotten us I to. To which I had replayed that I was the one the elf was searching for. I the. Proceeded to tell him of the Civilians and how I fled in the night because I was assigned a task I was not prepared to carry out. I urged Terios to tread lightly as the elf could be round any turn. We then took turns sleeping while the other stood guard. As I awoke from my rest in the early morning I could see Terios sitting by the Door sharpening his great axe. We then collected our things and headed for the library. We snuck quietly down the hall and entered the great library. As we peered around the room wondering where to start, there was a muffling of footsteps and the Goliath stepped out from around a bookshelf. He motioned for Terios to sit and as they sat he motioned for the dagger. Terios handed over the dagger, the monk inspected it carefully then After pondering a moment motioned for Terios to close his eyes and bow his head. As Terios did the monk laid his hand on Terios’ horn and forced plunged the dagger into his chest. Unsure of what I had just witnessed I sat there slackjawed and unsure of my next move. Now the blade was about 3 quarters deep I noticed the Terios didn’t so much as flinch as if the monk was merely pressing his finger to his chest. By this time the blade was submerged to the hilt and yet the monk was still pushing. Moments later the blade completely disappeared into Terios’ hide leaving not wound but a small symbol of Kord in the place of the wound. Not understanding the whole ritual I just stood back and watched. As Terios openned his eyes the the monk pointed to his head, then to his heart as if to say to surpress the beast within and allow Kord to guide your path. He then rose to his feet and exited the room motioning for us to follow.
He lead us out to the training grounds, to an arena, reminding Terios of the arena in the Labrynthian Isles that He had spent his life escaping. However unlike the rest of the monastery this room had an open ceiling exposing its combatants to the elements and putting them on a pedestal for Kord to judge for himself. The monk motioned for Terios to join him in the center while I remained off to the side to watch. Man was it a hard thing to watch. I watched as Terios attempted every trick he had learned while as a gladiator In the arena. He never even touched the monk and when he actually go close enough to taste it he ended up tasting a leather sandle as the Goliath spartan-kicked him in the face. While Terios was being manhandled I noticed from across the way the elf had emerged sticking to the shadows, no longer was wearing the garb of a monk but 2 hand crossbows clipped at his waist and a pair of blades slung over his back. As Terios continued my attention came to the elf and his intentions. I knew he had come for me but what was he doing here. Terios completely frustrated pulled his great axe out of its scabbard and charged, and as before his attack was halted this time the goliath ripped his axe from his grasp and hurled it out of the arena. For the third time I could see Terios’ rage begin To bubble over but this time he centered himself read the mantra of Kord back in his mind halted his attack and focused on the words playing back in his head. As he sensed the rage dissipate the monk clapped and stepped out of the arena and disappeared out view.
As this was going on I noticed the elf had disappeared behind a pillar. And as I stepped out into the stone floor of the arena, we were met by the elf standing atop the 30 foot pillar, staring intently down at us.
As we stood in the moonlit night, I could see the siluette standing in the light of the moon. He called out that he had been waiting a long time for me to return. I asked why the Civilians wanted me dead, I posed them no real threat and I made them more then enough gold to repay what they had done, for me. As the elf chuckled he shouted. “Yes you have drawn more then enough blood for the Civilians, however we only ask you spill the blood of one more… YOURS”, as he drew his hand crossbow and fired it at me striking me in the shoulder.
aware of our less then ideal situation Terios and I spilt and took shelter under the pillars. Terios searched frantically for his axe as I dodged more of the elf’s crossbow bolts. The elf then moved into a position directly above me but missed again. Terios seeing my plight stopped his search and charged the stone pillar in an attempt to knock off the elf and bring him to our level. He crashed into the pillar with a loud thud, alas the structure did not move. Channeling my training I then ran at Terios and vaulted off his back jumping to the top of the stone pillars in front of the elf. Then followed it up with a round house kick to the face sending him plummeting to the ground. He landed feet first tossed his crossbows aside and drew the blades strapped to his back. He swung around and slashed at Terios cutting his shoulder. Terios whirled around and punched at the elf, afterwards he stepped back to search for his axe again. I jumped down and struck the assassin across the face grazing him. He raised his swords and brought them both down, slicing me across the midsection. As I felt the blood soak my armor I swiped at the elf as I fled behind the nearest pillar ducking into the shadows. The elf then stepped out into the center of the arena and poised for an attack. He then called out to me saying, “It is very fitting that I am going to kill you with the very techniques I’ve learned while awaiting your return. You should have stayed away.”
He then focused all his energy into a single forceful punch and out of the sky came a bolt of raging lightning and it struck me right through the chest.
When I awoke the smoking carcass of the elf lay strewn on the ground. Terios told me that he prayed to Kord and focused his energy and projected his charge into a ferocious blast of light and electricity. How much truth there was I do not know. Perhaps he was only trying to get me to convert to Kord’s ways. However there was something that happened that day and he has never been the same , from that moment on he was always relying on the strength of Kord and believed he was leading him in all he did. As for me, I made a promise that day that never again would a member of the Civilians get the drop on me. I took the assassins hand crossbow as a trophy that day, promising that If they wanted a war I’ be happy to oblige. and as reminder of that promise I wear the head of the bolt that pierced my chest around my neck.
As for our other endevours, maybe another time.

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Chapter 21
The Fall of A Tyrant

Over the next few days word of our return spread like wildfire. People talked of the heroes of Fallcrest in the streets openly and began resisting the tyrannical rule. Guards on the wall were tripled, to account for the army of dragons that followed the heroes of Fallcrest. The patrols on the street were drastically cut allowing us to setup the explosions and further encite hope among the people. Then finally all preparations had been complete. 4 days had past since entering Fallcrest, and on the eve of the 5th day everything was in place. As we all prepared for the part we would play, we said our farewells until we would meet again. As dusk approached we ambushed a trio of green cloaks in the street outside the temple and disguised ourselves. I then snuck out to the cliff face and set off a chain reaction that would burn our symbol of hope into the cliffs of Fallcrest for all the city to see. Moments passed as the symbol began to catch fire and just as the small spark turned into a roaring fire the shouts of townspeople erupted into a thunderous cheer for the heroes of Fallcrest had finally returned!
The illusion around the temple fell as a giant figure appeared from the treeline. Giant flapping wings and a pendulum like tail screamed towards the town, chaos insued upon the walls as the city guards turned on the green cloaks, further more when the first of the explosions went off as the dragon passed overhead the forces scattered for cover and the towns people cheered!
After a few more passes of the dragon 5great eagles could be seen flying in from the east swooping down on the bottomless barrel transforming into giant bears beginning their assault on the base. With the resulting chaos Dara lead us into the tunnels. As we crept down the narrow hall, we approached a turn in the rock and a gauntleted arm reached out and grabbed Dara. I flung around the corner blades drawn but stopped dead in my tracks to see commander Vorn hiding behind Dara dagger to her throat. Slurring his words he cursed us for ruining his fun. And further taunting Dara whispering into her ear and licking her cheek. Attempting to catch him off guard Sorin fired an arrow at him but it caught the edge of his armor deflecting away. Angered by Sorin’s attempt at his life, he slit Dara’s throat from ear to ear. Enraged I dove out after him burying both blades deep into his chest the force of the impact bringing him to the floor and in another quick motion pulled out my blades and scissor cut him across the neck. The others stood shocked as I dropped my blades and put pressure on Dara’s wound knowing full well that it was useless. I tied a piece of cloth around her neck to slow the flow of blood and leaned her against the wall, the sound of familiar laughter came from behind as Zorin stood in a doorway. He mocked us for allowing a drunk to kill Dara, then when I picked up my swords again he began to tell us that he would not stand in our way. That while he swore an oath of allegiance to the boss, he would not follow the orders of a puppet. That Stellion had been controlling him since we left. How upon losing to Sorin in open combat he grew paranoid and lost his nerve. Bending to Stellion’s every command comming like a puppy to his call. He told us he would even lead us to his chamber if only we would kill the boss and release Zorin from his oath. He lead us to the boss’ chambers unhindered.

- I picked the 9 padlocks barring the door, and we pushed it open.
Inside the room was dim and empty. The boss sat kneeling on the floor calling into a mirror on the wall. Sorin stepped up and stared at the boss through the mirror. When the boss finally looked up he whirled around I. Disbelief and fear. He begged and pleaded for his life, but Sorin was not concerned with him. He was no longer the threat. The called out to Stellion to come to his aid but no help arrived. Then as Sorin spoke the mirror image twisted and turned until the shape of a well known figure stood before the rest of us. Stellion told denied the boss his assistance and proceeded to explain that he had worn out his usefulness. The. A giant hand came reaching out of the mirror grabbing the boss by the face and dragging him through the mirror. Stellion looked and laughed and the image began to fade out of existence. But before the gateway could close, our party dove through determined to end this threat once and for all.

As we appeared through the other side we stood before an enormous castle. Sorin then welcomed us all to his childhood home, castle Markov.
We ascended the stairs to the castle proper. As we entered the white marble archway of the great hall we were met by Sorin’s brother Stellion waiting for us. His confidence bordered arrogance as he told us that we should have left Sorin when we had the chance for all we had done by following him was seal out own fates. As he spoke a familiar laughter could be heard creeping up from behind. As I whirled around I saw that We were now face to face with Tybalt and his two demon cohorts.

Sorin tired of the silly games drew his sword and charged toward his brother but was stopped short a few feet later as the floor began to give way from about 3 feet behind him. Sending us falling into the black abyss below. I managed to secure a hand on the icy ledge but was soon. Bull rushed by one of the demons with Tybalt. I couldn’t maneuver out of the way and was soon being forced down in the giant fist of this demon. As we were callin I could see Maloc attempt to free me from my captor but soon he himself was wrapped In an oversized fist. We soon hit the ice cave floor Terios crashing right straight through into the freezing water below. Paldo right behind positioning himself to land in Terios’ hole. And finally Maloc and I crashing through, the fists of the demon taking the brunt of the force
As the ice cold water touched my skin a searing pain washed over me stinging every inch of me with numbing feeling
As I scurried to my feet I pulled my crossbow and fires into the closest recovering demon causing it to roar In pain. Paldo slid past me and used the momentum from the ice slide to fling himself up onto the back of this gargantuan beast. Maloc throws his staff javelin style at Tybalt who Also decided to join our little dance. It bounced our tybalts shoulder causing him to stagger back. Providing Maloc just enough time to duck under the water as 2 of tybalts daggers came careening toward his head. Terios lifted his axe and brought it down heavy onto the floor requesting the help of his deity Kord. The shaking and heavy vibrations broke free 3 heavy stalactites 1 came crashing Into the water where we landed, however the other two connected with their intended targets dealing crushing blows hobbling the one nearest Terios. Disoriented the demon snapped its jaws narrowly missing Terios
Paldo continued his climb as he stabbed his daggers into the demons hide. In its distraction I charged toward Paldo’s demon and with a scissor slash cut deeply into its leg. It roared in pain as it stumbled to keep balance. Behind me I caught glimpses of Maloc and Tybalt rolling around on the ground and Terios bury his axe into the face of the other winged demon.
By this point Paldo had reached the demons head and stabbed it in the eyes. As it scratched and clawed I put all the force I could muster behind my swing and cleaved through the leg of the demon as it crashed to the ground. Paldo was thrown into the frigid water as the demon crumbled to the ground. I walked up to the beasts head and pierced both of my blades through its skull killing it. Seeing this as good a time as any, (the others were dealing with Tybalt), I grabbed a hammer from my pack and broke off one of the demon’s fangs, gotta have proof, I thought. Just then I heard a splash as I turned to see Maloc fall into the water and begin to sink. I dove in after him and brought him to the surface. Tybalt had the customary crushed skull terios had become known for. Apparently Tuvalu had kicked Maloc so hard he had knocked him unconscious. I guess That answers the question how many adventurers does it take to kill psychotic devil

I smacked Maloc to wake him as he regained consciousness I rolled him over and let him clear the water from his lungs.

As we recovered and looked for a way to return to the surface and help Sorin. There was a loud crash and debris began falling from above.
About 100 yards away we saw a bright ball of light crash to the ground. The ice exploded in deep spikes as Sorin and Stellion crashed to the ground. As we approached we could see Sorin standing over Stellion blade in hand, then Sorin peered off into the shadows, paused then severed the head of his brother stellion.
As the head flew through the air a burst of light cascaded out of the body ricocheting of every angle in the icy cave. As it dissipated there stood a woman dressed in black grasping Sorin’s shoulder whispering into his ear. The Raven Queen had come to ensure Sorin faced the consequences, for killing his blood. Then as quick as she had come she was gone. The three of us were left standing there staring up at Sorin as he turned to us and said, “…..I’m free…”

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Chapter 20
The "Symbol"

Gorlac told us that Nothung and Priest were still alive and keeping hope alive that we would someday return and rid Fallcrest of the boss and his green cloaks. He then told us of the increase in the cities defenses since we left the guards were manned by archers round the clock and the streets patrolled heavily. We entered Fallcrest through a small hatch. The narrow escape hatch within the temple of pelor. As we followed within I approached gorlac and asked if he knew of a band of Druids that stalked to outskirts of the city. He knew nothing and continued moving. At the end of the hall he disappeared up the stairs and through a trap door. As we entered the room on the other side it was black and empty. And gorlac was gone. The temple of Pelore was destroyed and abandoned nothing remained. The pool of dried blood where Pilin met his demise and the broken glass scatter about the floor. After inspecting the space Sorin’s eye was caught by the glint of a single coin resting upon the podium where priest would stand and preach to the followers of Pelore. As he approached Maloc followed and inspected the coin, not fully understanding its use maloc reached out and touched the coin. In an instance he blinked out of existence. Sorin followed and did the same. Terios by this point was very apprehensive about touching it so I snuck up and jumped on his back pushing his hand into the coin. He disappeared and I fell to the ground. I knew it was some sort of magical transport gadget but considered my searching of the temple to be unfinished. To I looked around a bit more and when I could find nothing further Paldo and I touched the coin.
Instantly the room was lit by priests glowing orbs as Maloc and Sorin embraced faces I had not seen in many months.
As I approached priest walked over arms outstretched welcoming us home celebrating our arrival. I then approached Nothung and told him that I had something that belonged to him. He seemed surprised but as I reached behind and removed the battle axe from my pack h nearly bowled me over reaching for it. I slapped him and told him to be patient I had a whole speech planned from when I would be able to return this to him. He then stood quietly while I did my thing and grabbed it away the moment I was done talking. Disappearing into the corner to be with his axe as if he had been reunited with a long lost family member
Priest observed the dwarf and laughed with amusement. He then told us of the changes that Fallcrest underwent. How the mages guild fell almost overnight to the green cloaks, most of them being killed Chandra having her skin peeled from her body and put on display for all to see.
People lost all hope until priest and the others began etching a symbol around town a symbol of hope and a promise that a savior would come to free Fallcrest from under the boot of the boss.
The symbol “iYii” became a beacon of hope a promise that the saviors of Fallcrest would someday return.
Now that we were here we could finally strike back against the boss and his men. Priest asked us what we had been planning and how we were going to accomplish it. Before we could respond a beautiful woman approached, who up until now went completely unnoticed. She was wearing a green cloak and began to speak of how there were disappearances among the city guard and the green cloaks and how the Boss seemed to be controlled by another party cowering in his chambers only leaving with a barrage of armed guards and Zorin at his side.
The voices he heard spoke a language she had never heard before, but when Sorin spoke the language of demons she agreed that was the language she heard.
Not really payin attention to what was being said I approached the woman and introduced myself, extending my hand and asking for hers in return. As she did I kissed her hand and she introduced herself as Dara. She blushed and Nothung laughed warning her of my devilish ways. She continued talking but all I heard was the wind in her hair, the shifting of her belt pouch on her waist and the light clacking of her boots on the floor.
She then told us of how afraid she had become by the new shadow leaders and that fear was what drove her to seek out priest and the others, I looked deeply into her eyes and told her she no longer had any reason to fear the saviors of Fallcrest had finally arrived. She smiled and blushed again. We shared a moment, however fleeting as Maloc returned talk to the plan at hand…. What a cockblock.
Priest and Nothung retired for the night leaving the planning to us Gorlac and Dara. We decided that Paldo would sneak about the town and raise awareness that the saviors have returned and that they would be calling upon the people of Fallcrest for support in the coming days that the hour of freedom was at hand And that we were bringing a dragon! We needed a display that would rouse the people and signal the final battle. Dara told us of an old store house that would have what we sought located at the base of the broken down freight elevator. We also needed to alert the Druids of the plan that was forming, but before we could develop a solid plan Sorin took off down the escape hatch and off into the night. Maloc and I decided that it would be best if Terios stayed and the two of us go to the store house. As we openned the door we could see three patrols guarding the nearby crossroads. 3 in front of us and 2 other patrols walking the streets of upper Fallcrest. Maloc turned to me and told me that no matter what happened it was imperative that I get to that store house and acquire the items necessary to make the signal. He then ran out into the street and called to the guards blocking our path. When they looked in his direction he began to sing and dance, it was quite the ingenious plan. Misdirection and confusion would be my best assets to making my way through the city unnoticed. Then when he fully had the guards attention he cast out fiery wisps in the form of birds to expose himself as the wizard they all feared would someday return. He then took off down a nearby street towards the old apothecary’s shop.
With the streets clear I made my way to the freight elevator and slid Down The ropes to the bottom. At the bottom I saw Sanderhill’s store house dark and abandoned. As I entered I began looking for the items required to make the symbol. As I came across the crates filled with alchemists fire I heard a cream from the doorway, I whirled around with my crossbow in hand and there stood Paldo leaning against the door. I asked how his task went he told me of a conversation he had with a townsperson sympathetic to our cause. How the townsperson would spread word of our return and that we would set off a grand signal when the time was right which would call out the townspeople into a riot in lower Fallcrest. Calling out the guards and green cloaks. We then decided to return to the temple and share our success with the others. We climbed the cliffs again and returned to the temple of Pelore. As we entered there was Terios, Dara, Sorin, and Maloc ( somewhat out of breath). Going over what they accomplished. Apparently the Druids were unhappy with the plan as laid out by Sorin. They wanted precise instructions and would not play mere pawns in the battle that would ensue. Dara told us that the boss’ men numbered around 300 but about 100 of those were city guard that could be swayed to our side. If we could draw a large enough force out to the street the Druids could assault the main entrance to the boss’ complex while Dara snuck us in the access under the falls. When the time came Gorlac would drop the illusion around the temple and focus his powers to conjure up an illusory dragon. We would use left over supplies to setup explosions that could be set off in different parts of the city to really sell the dragon attack. Mean while Priest and Nothung would raise the people and lead the revolt. Finally, it seemed we had a plan.

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Chapter 19
Return to Fallcrest

We traveled for about a day when one of the horses became ill and we were forced to kill it. It was the. That we found some very fine mead that must have been buried in the bottom of Edwan’s cart. So as we rode along the others started asking Paldo about himself and his past, his relationship with his brother and anything we might come to know about the mysterious man who sent him to us. He dodged question after question revealing enough to appease our interest without revealing too much.
As evening set in a storm began rolling I so we bunkered down and prepared camp. I tied up the horse while Terios emptied and flipped the cart up against a large tree. To which Paldo secured a large blanket and made a makeshift lean to for us to spend the night. Sorin and Maloc prepared a stew from some of the remaining vegetables. And we took rest as the rain began to pour.
Sorin took the first watch so the rest of us could sleep. I took the second watch after Sorin woke me up in the early hours of morning. With nothing to report he wandered off to bed and left me to my guard duties. As dawn broke, I kicked Terios in the shoulder who awoke with a startled grunt, the loud thud his hoof made against the tree woke the others. As everyone finished wiping the sleep from their eyes we packed up camp and continued our trail to fall crest.
A short way down the path something caught paldo’s eye and he jumped off the cart and into the woods. Sorin was growing more and more concerned about our new companions erratic behavior.
- Continuing a ways down the path we came across a body laid slain on the side of the road. I jumped off the cart and rushed over to investigate, alas the man was dead 2 arrows protruding from his back. As Sorin approached slowly he pulled on of the arrows and I immediately knew it to be a green cloAk Arrow.
-He licked the tip got poisoned.
-we took the arrows
Sorin jumped atop the cart and blew hard into the battlehorn he had made from the rhynodons horn.
Nothing happened we continued for around a bend in the road and there stood 5 wolves standing in the middle of the road. Sorin jumped down and approached the wolves and as he did the middle one morphed into a human it was the Druid we met in the Nentir inn all those months ago. From where we stood we could hear the leader yelling at Sorin for not having a plan. He chastised him for calling them and wasting their time. Sorin was able to calm them but was warned not to waste their time. The morphed back into wolves and disappeared into the woods.

We started back down the path and were surprised by paldo’s sudden return from the woods. In front of our cart.

-Sorin started grilling Paldo demanding to know his secret why he could disappear into the forest behind and reappear in front of us.
- things got heated and Sorin pulled his sword
-I woke to Terios reaching for his axe Sorin pointing his at Paldo and the cart pulled to a complete halt.
- I tried to reason with Sorin to allow Paldo his privacy but Sorin was not convinced the fire in his eyes would not be squelched. I demanded Sorin put his sword away and startled by my tone he turned his sword on me.
- as soon as the blade moved a flash of light and a screeching of a hawk was all tha existed of Paldo. He disappeared into the sky.
- Sorin looked back at me with a look of anger as if to say I told u so.
We continued silently for a while before I seen Paldo again. I called to him and asked him to return. I mitigated an apology from Sorin. And asked Paldo if he could fly ahead and survey the area he agreed
He took off and buzzed by Sorin screeching as he passed.
By the time Paldo returned to us we could see the walls of Fallcrest far off in the distance.
Black smoke billowed into the sky. As the hawk returned he told us of a patrol of green cloaks guarding the nearby crossroad. A crossroad we would have to pass to get to the dragons cave.
We decided that Paldo would turn into a wolf and attempt to draw the attention of the guards away from the pass. Paldo disappeared into the nearby tall grass. As we approached we could see the attention of some of the guards being drawn into the grass. We approached and the guards asked where we were going. Sorin and Terios were hiding in the back of the cart while Maloc and I rode up front.
We approached them pretending to be traders taking livestock to Winterhold. Sorin let out a very convincing bleat of a goat from within the cart. Confused they asked why we kept our livestock in the cart? Maloc lied and said we had already lost a few goats to the wolves and wished to travel as fast as we could. They seemed to believe us and let us pass. After about an hour of travel Paldo returned to our cart and began bandaging his wounds. He took an arrow graze off the arm.

As we continued down the road we seen another person standing in the road. It was the half-Orc from the mages circle. He flagged us down and when he saw that it was Maloc and I in the front, a sigh of relief seemed to come over him. He told us of the state of Fallcrest and the boss’ iron grip that fallowed our departure. He then told us that the dwarf would be very relieved to see us. He urged we follow but we told him we had a errand to run before we could return. He seemed annoyed but understood we could not be swayed. And we continued on our way.
- we approached the dragons lair and the whole opening was icy and cold. Where the doorway used to be there was not a 20’ hole in the rock.
- Maloc called out to the dragon and asked for an audience.
- the room got cold and a guttural growl filled the room with a chilling wind.
The voice came after and spoke only in draconic. Maloc and the dragon exchanged words and then in a breath of cold air he was gone.
Maloc later told us that the dragon agreed that he owed us a debt for ridding him of the stench of Maloreth but did not care much for the paltry politics of humans that if we called on him he would answer.

Satisfied with this answer we returned to the half-Orc and made our way to Fallcrest.

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Chapter 18
Mysterious Circumstances

To avoid the agents of Fallcrest we decided to take the slightly longer path around harken forest. It was rarely used in the warmer
Months as the woods were much quicker but harder to navigate in the snow.

We had been traveling about a ten-day when we came upon a stange sight.
A cart lay abandoned in the middle of the path. Maloc stopped the cart and Sorin hopped off he motioned for me to follow from the trees as I snuck into the bushes I followed close behind mimicking Sorin’s movement keeping my eyes peeled for any source of ambush. From my place I could see a huddled mass in front of the cart. And as I looked closer I knew it was the carcass of a horse. I quickly climbed up a tree and searched the area again for signs of movement. Sorin motioned for Maloc to pull the cart forward as he climbed atop the empty cart surveying the scene he shouted out in a booming voice for the perpetrators to show themselves. The sheer power of his voice caused the horse to rear and the birds to scatter from the trees. But it was followed up by only silence.
From what I could tell there had been a fight there recently, evidence piles in droves. The inside of the cart was plastered with blood. Bags of food were strewn about the scene. From the lack of drag marks, or tracks we all surmised that this was a human struggle. Maloc and Sorin sorted the food discarding the bad and collecting the good and once that was done returned to the cart and carried on down the path. Still fearing an ambush I continued from the trees and the every so often tossed a twig to signal the others that I was still there.
About 30 mins down the road. We heard screaming from around a bend in the woods the clash of steel on steel rang out.

Maloc threw the horse into full gallop. It was hard enough to keep them in sight let alone keep up.

As I approached the commotion I paused to watch Terios hurl himself off the side of the wagon colliding with a bandit that was aiming a crossbow at him.

Maloc then flung around the horses and brought them to a halt. As he and Sorin headed toward another bandit, this one with a farmer grappling him from the back. Sorin charged in blade in hand, seeing this the farm hand let go and jumped backwards. Sorin collided with the bandit cutting him deeply. Knocking him to the ground. As I took a vantage point within the tree I could see Terios howl in rage as he brought his axe down into the skull of the man he had tackled. The bandits hand slipped from the blade that stuck in Terios’ thigh As his body went limp. Terios pulled the blade out threw it in the dirt and dashed over to help the others restrain the farmer who by know was behind the remaining bandit attempting to strangle him. Another farmer charged toward the bandit with a rather large cleaver. I fired a single dart that flew from the trees bouncing off the blade sending it flying off into the grass. After a split second of confusion, the farmer returned his charge and jumped on the bandit and began punching him in the face.
Sorin punched him hard in the chest as he pushed him off our only remaining lead.

The other farmer had by now almost choked the life clear out of him. When Terios booted the bandit in the head knocking his head back into the farmers knocking him unconscious

He smiled up at the others while they looked at him in awe struck confusion. Maloc simply asked why, why did he have to kick him in the head? As they watched the blood pour out of the crack in his skull. Terios looked at Maloc and said with confusion, “… Wasn’t there another one?” To which Maloc simply pointed at the two pieces of skull that lay in the grass some 30 feet away.

An old man called out from the other cart, “don’t hurt my boys, we mean no harm!” As Sorin approached the old man he grew seemingly alarmed. He threw the old man to the ground and began tying him up as he started to interrogate the man regarding the two dead bodies in the back of his cart.

I lost track of what happened next not for lack of excitement but for the fact that I heard a small snap of a twig and a blade slipped against my throat.

I then heard a voice that seemed to travel on the wind, it said to me, “Don’t move.”

My muscles tightened as I craned my eyes to see my attacker. But he appeared to envelope me grabbing hold from multiple spots. Either this stalker had 4 arms or he was really short.

After a few minutes of ginger questioning and a request to be set free, Terios voice came calling out from the road. “Dartanion! Get out here!”

The blade around my throat tightened as the small man seemed to tense of at the hearing of my name. He then demanded to know my full name, so having learned long ago don’t mess with a guy with a knife to your throat, regardless his size I told him. He seemed to ease off a hair as he pondered a moment. Terios call came again from the trees. The small man then requested that I take him to parlay with my companions. But he would be keeping me under right control as we did.

Reminding him that we were 30 feet up in a tree I requested he ease off on the dagger until we reach the ground as I always seem to have a easier time with going up things then down.

As I climbed down with my new back pack. I slowly walked out of the trees. And approached the others. Sorin was still knee in the back of the old man and the other two were huddled in pain on the ground 20 feet away. As I approached the group the wee one peeked over my shoulder and introduced himself as Paldo Shortwick, immediately after hearing the name I recalled seeing the name Shortwick some employee records in Lord Carrion’s study.

Terios scoffed at my predicament as Sorin growled in defiance. Paldo tightened the blade and I demanded they stand down.
Maloc stepped forth and asked that I be released and we discuss this as civilized folk. As Maloc, reiterated the fact that he (Paldo) was not with the bandits, nor with the farmers, so no I’ll will was harbored against him to speak openly would be welcome with weapons stowed. With that I felt the blade slip back off my throat and the weight of the halfling fall off my back. I stepped away as I turned and looked at him. Recalling the family name I asked where he was headed. He told us he was headed to Fallcrest. Questioning him further we found out he was related to Pillin, the brave halfling who gave his life to save ours, from the evil clutches of the vampire lord, Rieken.

I felt obligated to share with him the story of his brothers heroic death. Hoping it would soften the blow by even the smallest factor.

He seemed to wipe away my attempt as it did not support his understanding of how his brother met his end. He was convinced that a man named simply, “the Boss” was behind his brothers murder. And that he was headed to Fallcrest to settle the score. I proceeded to urge caution as the Boss was not a man to be taken lightly. I then turned to the others and requested we return with Paldo as we owed our lives to his brother, not to mention Chandra still had terios’ Great Axe.
After hearing the name Chandra Paldo coughed and said to us that she most likely no longer had the axe. Concerned Terios asked why, and Paldo simply returned with saying, “well, at least it wasn’t beside he body or any of the other mages in the tower.”
In unison we all gasped at the thought of the complete annihilation of the mages tower and our inability to act being a direct cause.

As we paused to contemplate this new information, the old man in the dirt returned our focus to him and his family. He introduced himself as Edwan Harken, head of household at his family estate of Harkenwold. As questioning returned to the farmers Paldo seemed disinterested so he plopped down on a rock and began whittling a stick. It wasn’t until the mention of gold as payment for assisting the harken family rid its land of brigands and thieves that I felt his presence again peering around my leg.

We agreed to follow Edwan and his family back to their home in exchange For lodgings and a hot meal. And the later promise of gold and rewards when we completed our task of driving away the bandits.

Upon approaching the estate if immediately got a bad feeling about this place. The fields looked as though they hadn’t been worked in years and the house was shabby and unkept. As we approached we seen three figures standing on the porch, The younger two brandishing pitchforks. Edwan stood and waved, causing the two to drop they’re tools and rush out to meet the carts.
As they drew near it could be seen that the girls, brugia and -———, Edwan’s daughters we excited to see his return. They quickly asked if he had returned with something to eat, as they peered at the carts. Meanwhile the two boys; Bergio and -——-, were starting to cart there dead friends to be buried round back, they soon disappeared out of sight.
From the porch came a grizzly sight. Edwan’s wife Witha called out to see what the commotion was. She looked like she was beaten with the ugly stick far worse then any of the others. They were all homely but her. I shudder at the thought.

She invited us inside to join them for dinner, the mole on her chin turning my stomach pushing all desire for food out of my system.

As we talked around the table I noticed that Sorin seemed increasingly suspicious of their choice of food, I could tell he sensed something was amiss.

After watching the harken family slobber their dinner I politely excuses myself as I still could not even think of putting food to my lips.

As I walked out into the night I passed Paldo who was sitting on the porch contemplating the days events. We exchanged nods as I passed out of view. While passing the homestead I noticed a rear storm cellar door, if I was to find some evidence of what was happening here it was going to be down there. But sneaking around was reserved for when the moon was high in the sky.

After supper the harken family decided to retire to bed, offering us the use of their barn for the night.
Terios tired from the long travel, retired to bed upon a pile of hay.

I approached Maloc and Sorin asking them if they felt that something was seriously off about this family, Maloc dismissed my concern while Sorin fed it. Sorin and I decided we would sneak into the cellar and see what was going on in this crazy place.

The others went to sleep and we soon passed Paldo as we were headed for the cellar, he simply looked at us shook his head and walked toward the barn.

As we approached the cellar we tried to gently open the door but it was barred from the inside. I suggested Sorin use the hammer and screwdriver he received earlier. To knock the door pin from its hinge. He covered the metal with his coat to muffle the sound and after a few moments the door was free.

I slowly lifted the door and Sorin peered in. The room was pitch black no light escaped the hole. So I suggested Sorin release the demon within and turn to the darkness and see if he could see anything further. As his eyes begin to glow a faint shade of red he started to make his way down the stairs to the cellar. Standing there in the darkness I could hear the soft footpads of his boots as he walked across the cobblestone floor. Soon all sound was ceased and there I stood alone in the night. I called lightly into the hole but there was no response. I waited a few moments and whispered a bit louder. After a few more minutes with No response, I grew concerned and turned back to fetch the others. But as I did all saw was an arm com down and club me across the face.

I soon came to after a ferocious blast of heat washed over me, the grotesque shape of Witha standing over me machete in hand ready to cleave my arm from my body. She saw my eyes open and as she did she started to bring the blade down on my chest.
Then before she could connect there was a flaming mass that flew over me slicing her arm clear from her fat frame. The arm came down flopping against my face, the oily skin stunk of unwashed body odor and rotten cabbage. Then the fiery being leapt up on her back and buried a pair of daggers deep within the fat folds of her back. Screaming In pain, Witha reached down and and grabbed the machete and started swinging it behind her. The two sisters were screaming as they attempted to bat out the flames. Angered, they grabbed a pair of wood cutters axes and threw them at Terios and myself the one hit Terios in the shoulder as the other landed in the wood between my legs. As he rose to his feet Terios ripped the axe from between my legs and hurled it back at the sisters planting it deep within the skull of brugia as she fell limp to the ground. He then shouted out," try a big boy axe next time!"

As Paldo kept the attention of Witha I drew my scimitar and sliced it across her chest. As the woman reeled from the blow, Paldo used the momentum to release and finally bury his blade within her neck. Bringing her to the ground in a heap.
There was then a flash of light as Bergio and the other sister grew stiff and shook in convulsions as the fell to the ground dead. Sorin finally awoke to a room full of corpses Edwan the sole survivor, his other son burnt to a crisp by Maloc’s fiery spell.
Edwan was held In Place his hand frozen to the ground Sorin approached and buried his teeth into the mans neck. After a moment of feeding he spit out the foul taste and stomped on the mans arm snapping in, as we demanded Edwan tell us who he was he cursed us for our ruining of his good thing. He promised us gold and jewels if we simply let him live, a story that Paldo soon called shenanigans on calling his bluff. He spit on Terios’ hoof enraging the barbarianleading to his ultimate end as Terios buried his axe within the head of Edwan.

Maloc turned in disgust as Terios pulled his axe from its seat, making an audible sucking sound as it released.

We then took the bodies out to the field and set them ablaze hoping to ensure whatever evil was present would be banished to the depths of the nine hells.

We then searched the rest of the home to find a room filled with portraits, books and histories of the harken family legacy. Maloc specifically found a text listing a single remaining member of the harken family, one Henry Harken. The younger brother of Sebastian Harken the homes rightful owner. We. Collected any documentation that seemed important and returned to the barn for a Good nights sleep. In the wee hours of the morning we returned saddle up the horses and hitched up the carts I asked Paldo if he would join us on our journey and he agreed. So we all boarded the two carts and headed back toward Fallcrest.

View
Chapter 17
Quiet Time (unfinished)

- we remained in river town over the winter. .

8months past. It was now the first day of the melting. Terios, Maloc and I were enjoying a drink in the tavern.

A student of Maloc’s came running in screaming. As he huddled into Maloc 2 large rhynodons entered the inn carrying oversized battle hammers adorned in gold and silver armor.
- they then demanded Terios, who was crouched behind the bar, preparing to attack.
- Maloc stepped in demanding they leave. He was clocked in the chest by a big hammer sent him flying behind the bar.
Y
- Terios burst out from behind the counter. Missing the closest attacker.
- Maloc threw a bottle of alcohol he lit ablaze at the second rhynodon. Setting his face on fire. The rhynodon grabbed the boy and threw him across the bar. I dash after him cutting the rhynodon behind the leg before catching the boy and bringing him down to safety. After seeing him out safely I turned back to the fight to feel the brunt of a giant hammer smack me in the chest.
I recoiled and took cover behind a table.
Terios was being beaten, Maloc was near unconscious and I was holed up behind a table. Things looked pretty bleak.
Moments later. Sorin burst through the door, fully clad in armor and scimitar drawn. He let out a howling growl as he dashed towards the first rhinodon. Catching him off guard and slashing him across the neck. Severing its arteries causing it to crumble to the floor.
- enraged at the act the other rhinodon raised his hammer to swing as Sorin grabbed the other hammer in retaliation. They clapped the weapons together and a thunderous clap could be heard as the second rhinodon was knocked back. Sorin took the moment to draw draw a second blade and follow momentum and sever the targets arm from its body. The giant rhinodon arm flew through the air and hit the wall behind me. As Sorin went for the killing blow the beast ducked and
Sorin clanked off the heavy horn.
I then jumped on the beasts back blade to his throat demanding he yield, knowing full well it would never happen. And when the rhinodon attempted to attack I slit his throat. He fell back on top of me in one last show of defiance.
As the dust settled and the air was being crushed out of my lungs I felt a rush of release as Terios hoofed the body off my small frame.

Sorin and Terios moved over and cut the horns from the rhinodons as trophies.

Fallon poach entered the destroyed tavern and viewing the carnage. He yelled at Sorin, then turned around and walked away.

Sorin then said to us is that it was time to go. We stayed a few days more to repair the damaged inn but soon after we said our goodbyes to river town, believing that the impact we made would forever change the city and ourselves.

It seemed hard for Maloc to leave the warm arms of Cena, but he knew that if he didn’t the world and his beloved Cena would perish.
-Maloc hopped into the driver seat and grabbed the reigns. And we slowly rode out of town.

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Chapter 16
Into the Woods

We stood warily in the darkness as we could feel something move about the room. Kessel seemingly unaware of the new presence was frightened out of his clothes when the rock he was examining revealed itself as the eye of an ancient dragon. Kessel staggered back and fell to the floor. As the giant beast moved into the light exposing itself to the party.
It barked out In a deep voice, demanding to know why we sought the guardian of the wood. Maloc stepped forth and spoke to the dragon in its mother tongue. Telling him of our journey, of Nestor’s story and Albark’s warning. The dragon seemed to genuinely distrust Sorin as he could see through the facade to the actual person he was inside. The dragon (who’s name we learned was venomeer), proceeded to tell us of the ancient battle between the guardians and the terrasque. How our fates were tied to the Terrasque and the battle that we would wage for the fate of the world as we knew it. He then turned his attentions to the doppleganger, Randee. The stench of death stung the beast nostrils as it hoofed a plume of smoke in our direction as if to fan away the odour. Venomeer again turned to Maloc and asked if we were aware of the imposter, to which Maloc replied we were but were keeping him around until we could rescue the real Sorin whom we believed was killed by his brother, Stellion.
Venomeer roared in opposition. He proceeded to tell us that Sorin was alive and better yet he knew where to find him.

Venomeer then spoke to Maloc Terios and I telepathically explaining the state of the real Sorin Markov. After he was taken aboard the spell jammer, apparently Stellion banished him to a distant plane of existence to be tortured for the rest of all eternity. Then the dragon peered over to Kessel and his eyes grew slim, a plan was forming and Kessel was to be the key. For us to reach the distant plane to save Sorin venomeer would need the help of both Maloc and Kessel to keep the demensional door open. Kessel would be the conduit and Venomeer the implement for Maloc to traverse the weave and bridge the gap between worlds. The dragon spoke a warning however, if Maloc were to fail his existence would be wiped clean from the fabric of time and space. He would simply cease to exist, however he would not be alone. He could gather magical items that would act as protective fields in the event he faltered. With that the dragon urged he prepare for this ordeal and see him when he was ready.

We each began searching our belongings for items that we could provide Maloc to anchor himself to this world. Maloc meditated for a while while Terios, Randee and I prepared Kessel to play his part. Soon Maloc was ready, he drew a circle on the stone floor with runic symbols and placed the magical items around him, the remaining shards of priests staff, the orb he received from Chandra, the pendant I took from mordicai, the pendant Terios acquired from the chest in maloreth’s lair, and 1 of the rings Maloc made for Randee. Confident in his preparations he called for Venomeer to begin.

The dragon’s eyes flared with a brilliant white light. As he did Kessel began to focus his power. The fabric of time and space began to blur around Maloc as his consciousness entered the weave. There was an eruption of light that emminated from Kessel’s outstretched arms as he began to scream in pain as the dragon fueled his powers with it own. Kessel fell to his knees in pain, begging for the ritual to stop then with a violent jerk kessel looked to the sky and erupted I to a ball of brilliant white light.

According to Maloc, as he entered the weave he was faced with a series of connecting pathways sometimes as few as one others as many as 6. Maloc would have to make the journey of the planes walker if he was to open the gap. As he did all we could do was watch as he seemed to struggle on his path once actually coughing out a pile of blood. As we stood there watching, we seen the items surround him burst into blue flames, as he he took hit after hit com some unknown force. But finally his body calmed, and all was quiet. Moments later,his eyes burst open with brilliant blue light, the runes on his skin following suit, then moments later the world around me faded to black as It felt as though my skin was being torn from my flesh, however the felling only lasted a moment before We were transported to Sorin’s plane.

I came to as burning sand stung my face. I could see Randee Maloc and Terios. Face down in the sand. Randee and Terios were no worse for wear but Maloc was bleeding from his nose and ears. So I lifted myself to my feet and tucked Maloc under Terios and covered him with my cloak. I then did the same with Sorin and rested until the others awoke. As the sand died down, and the others came too, we travelled south in the direction of a large black spire, the only structure on the whole of the horizon.

With Maloc still feeling the effects of the planeswalk it took us a little over a day to make it to the spire. By the time we made it to the spire however he regained a fair amount of strength and could now Travel unassisted. Randee however was taking a turn for the worse. His skin began to to take on an ashy colour and flaky appearance but we ignored it.
As we approached the spire looked empty so we entered through the front gate.

I we entered the main hall a grate in the center of the ceiling could be seen leaking copious amounts of crimson liquid we determined was blood. Assuming Sorin would be on the other side we began ascending the stairs to find his cell.
We reached the top of the stairs we reached a landing with 2 doors. I snuck out and listened at the first and could hear voices on the other side. One was saying to the other that the time for their return was almost at hand. Mysteriously, another door creaked open showing another stairwell that lead further up the tower. We quickly and quietly made our way to the top. Randee seemed agitated by his deteriorating physical state. As we entered a large hall, light dimly along a path to a room in the center. Randee started to hurl accusations at us and threatened to end our lives if we didn’t tell him why his skin was falling from his bones. So I did, I told him he was a just vessel, a body to support us while we searched for our true companion Sorin. He ran off into the darkness and we heard a collapsing moments later. Randee could not be helped, and it was Sorin we were there to save so we continued on our path. The darkness ended with a large wooden door. As we openned the door we could see a bloodied and broken Sorin

Sorin looked broken and frail. He was feral and did not recognize any of us. His eyes nearly black and cold, as we approached he roared in defense, lashing out with his fangs trying to bite anything close. His clothing hung from his body and masked the giant scars that riddled his midsection from the constant torture. We tried to break him free but before we could a devilish looking man and two huge demons entered the room brandishing large swords. The devil began to speak, he told us his name was Tybalt how he had been playing with Sorin for the last 500 years. How he’d be surprised if even if he did recover if he would even rember us. Stellion had sent Sorin here and promised Tybalt freedom from his realm in exchange for Torturing his brother Sorin. Remembering Venomere’s words on how to return home he approached Sorin and held a blade to his throat. Tybalt tried to offer us a deal, we could take Sorin and in exchange for his freedom we must take Tybalt back with us. Maloc asked Tybalt to allow us to discuss it privately, but seeing through his clever trick he simple plugged his ears, and remained. Then when Tybalt grew tired of our stalling he instructed one of his demon guards to go and douce the lights, which were the only thing protecting us from the shadows. Seeing no other recourse Maloc plunged his dagger into Sorin, and as the world swirled to blackness again all that could be heard was the unsettling cackle of Tybalt, and we all knew we did not return alone.
As I openned my eyes I was standing there staring up at the green dragon who just smiled and welcomed us back. As I looked around I saw Terios bracing Sorin and Maloc and Kessel lying face down in the dirt.
Venomere spoke out in plain words, welcoming the real Sorin back to the land of the living. Sorin made no motion of acknowledgement as he hung from terios, old and frail and Devoid of all muscle and meat. His armor hung from him like window drapes and his equipment was gone. Venomere told us how Stellion had Sorin imprisoned because he knew that if he killed his brother that he would suffer the wrath of the Raven Queen. Venomere continued to say that there was a great battle comming and we were to play a great role in the fight for existence.
How Stellion’s actions set in motion a chain reaction and how it was imperative that we end his reign, that Sorin destroy his brother and finally, that we would need the resources of the Markov family to bring peace to the land and destroy the Terasque.
It was late and night would soon be approaching Venomere suggested we rest and set out for river town in the morning. He suggested we introduce ourselves as “Campions of Venomere, Guardian of the Wood” as his name may still hold some sway with the towns people. Kessel, Maloc and Sorin were all past the point of exhaustion so we decided to take the dragons advice and rested for the evening.
Staring into the yellow eyes of the great beast I vowed to never again cower away from a tyrant and to protect those who could not protect themselves. We left in the morning and made our way to river town. The city was about 3 days travel from Venomere’s Lair.

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Chapter 15
Into the Rift

We stood warily in the darkness as we could feel something move about the room. Kessel seemingly unaware of the new presence was frightened out of his clothes when the rock he was examining revealed itself as the eye of an ancient dragon. Kessel staggered back and fell to the floor. As the giant beast moved into the light exposing itself to the party.
It barked out In a deep voice, demanding to know why we sought the guardian of the wood. Maloc stepped forth and spoke to the dragon in its mother tongue. Telling him of our journey, of Nestor’s story and Albark’s warning. The dragon seemed to genuinely distrust Sorin as he could see through the facade to the actual person he was inside. The dragon (who’s name we learned was venomeer), proceeded to tell us of the ancient battle between the guardians and the terrasque. How our fates were tied to the Terrasque and the battle that we would wage for the fate of the world as we knew it. He then turned his attentions to the doppleganger, Randee. The stench of death stung the beast nostrils as it hoofed a plume of smoke in our direction as if to fan away the odour. Venomeer again turned to Maloc and asked if we were aware of the imposter, to which Maloc replied we were but were keeping him around until we could rescue the real Sorin whom we believed was killed by his brother, Stellion.
Venomeer roared in opposition. He proceeded to tell us that Sorin was alive and better yet he knew where to find him.

Venomeer then spoke to Maloc Terios and I telepathically explaining the state of the real Sorin Markov. After he was taken aboard the spell jammer, apparently Stellion banished him to a distant plane of existence to be tortured for the rest of all eternity. Then the dragon peered over to Kessel and his eyes grew slim, a plan was forming and Kessel was to be the key. For us to reach the distant plane to save Sorin venomeer would need the help of both Maloc and Kessel to keep the demensional door open. Kessel would be the conduit and Venomeer the implement for Maloc to traverse the weave and bridge the gap between worlds. The dragon spoke a warning however, if Maloc were to fail his existence would be wiped clean from the fabric of time and space. He would simply cease to exist, however he would not be alone. He could gather magical items that would act as protective fields in the event he faltered. With that the dragon urged he prepare for this ordeal and see him when he was ready.

We each began searching our belongings for items that we could provide Maloc to anchor himself to this world. Maloc meditated for a while while Terios, Randee and I prepared Kessel to play his part. Soon Maloc was ready, he drew a circle on the stone floor with runic symbols and placed the magical items around him, the remaining shards of priests staff, the orb he received from Chandra, the pendant I took from mordicai, the pendant Terios acquired from the chest in maloreth’s lair, and 1 of the rings Maloc made for Randee. Confident in his preparations he called for Venomeer to begin.

The dragon’s eyes flared with a brilliant white light. As he did Kessel began to focus his power. The fabric of time and space began to blur around Maloc as his consciousness entered the weave. There was an eruption of light that emminated from Kessel’s outstretched arms as he began to scream in pain as the dragon fueled his powers with it own. Kessel fell to his knees in pain, begging for the ritual to stop then with a violent jerk kessel looked to the sky and erupted I to a ball of brilliant white light.

According to Maloc, as he entered the weave he was faced with a series of connecting pathways sometimes as few as one others as many as 6. Maloc would have to make the journey of the planes walker if he was to open the gap. As he did all we could do was watch as he seemed to struggle on his path once actually coughing out a pile of blood. As we stood there watching, we seen the items surround him burst into blue flames, as he he took hit after hit com some unknown force. But finally his body calmed, and all was quiet. Moments later,his eyes burst open with brilliant blue light, the runes on his skin following suit, then moments later the world around me faded to black as It felt as though my skin was being torn from my flesh, however the felling only lasted a moment before We were transported to Sorin’s plane.

I came to as burning sand stung my face. I could see Randee Maloc and Terios. Face down in the sand. Randee and Terios were no worse for wear but Maloc was bleeding from his nose and ears. So I lifted myself to my feet and tucked Maloc under Terios and covered him with my cloak. I then did the same with Sorin and rested until the others awoke. As the sand died down, and the others came too, we travelled south in the direction of a large black spire, the only structure on the whole of the horizon.

With Maloc still feeling the effects of the planeswalk it took us a little over a day to make it to the spire. By the time we made it to the spire however he regained a fair amount of strength and could now Travel unassisted. Randee however was taking a turn for the worse. His skin began to to take on an ashy colour and flaky appearance but we ignored it.
As we approached the spire looked empty so we entered through the front gate.

I we entered the main hall a grate in the center of the ceiling could be seen leaking copious amounts of crimson liquid we determined was blood. Assuming Sorin would be on the other side we began ascending the stairs to find his cell.
We reached the top of the stairs we reached a landing with 2 doors. I snuck out and listened at the first and could hear voices on the other side. One was saying to the other that the time for their return was almost at hand. Mysteriously, another door creaked open showing another stairwell that lead further up the tower. We quickly and quietly made our way to the top. Randee seemed agitated by his deteriorating physical state. As we entered a large hall, light dimly along a path to a room in the center. Randee started to hurl accusations at us and threatened to end our lives if we didn’t tell him why his skin was falling from his bones. So I did, I told him he was a just vessel, a body to support us while we searched for our true companion Sorin. He ran off into the darkness and we heard a collapsing moments later. Randee could not be helped, and it was Sorin we were there to save so we continued on our path. The darkness ended with a large wooden door. As we openned the door we could see a bloodied and broken Sorin

Sorin looked broken and frail. He was feral and did not recognize any of us. His eyes nearly black and cold, as we approached he roared in defense, lashing out with his fangs trying to bite anything close. His clothing hung from his body and masked the giant scars that riddled his midsection from the constant torture. We tried to break him free but before we could a devilish looking man and two huge demons entered the room brandishing large swords. The devil began to speak, he told us his name was Tybalt how he had been playing with Sorin for the last 500 years. How he’d be surprised if even if he did recover if he would even rember us. Stellion had sent Sorin here and promised Tybalt freedom from his realm in exchange for Torturing his brother Sorin. Remembering Venomere’s words on how to return home he approached Sorin and held a blade to his throat. Tybalt tried to offer us a deal, we could take Sorin and in exchange for his freedom we must take Tybalt back with us. Maloc asked Tybalt to allow us to discuss it privately, but seeing through his clever trick he simple plugged his ears, and remained. Then when Tybalt grew tired of our stalling he instructed one of his demon guards to go and douce the lights, which were the only thing protecting us from the shadows. Seeing no other recourse Maloc plunged his dagger into Sorin, and as the world swirled to blackness again all that could be heard was the unsettling cackle of Tybalt, and we all knew we did not return alone.
As I openned my eyes I was standing there staring up at the green dragon who just smiled and welcomed us back. As I looked around I saw Terios bracing Sorin and Maloc and Kessel lying face down in the dirt.
Venomere spoke out in plain words, welcoming the real Sorin back to the land of the living. Sorin made no motion of acknowledgement as he hung from terios, old and frail and Devoid of all muscle and meat. His armor hung from him like window drapes and his equipment was gone. Venomere told us how Stellion had Sorin imprisoned because he knew that if he killed his brother that he would suffer the wrath of the Raven Queen. Venomere continued to say that there was a great battle comming and we were to play a great role in the fight for existence.
How Stellion’s actions set in motion a chain reaction and how it was imperative that we end his reign, that Sorin destroy his brother and finally, that we would need the resources of the Markov family to bring peace to the land and destroy the Terasque.
It was late and night would soon be approaching Venomere suggested we rest and set out for river town in the morning. He suggested we introduce ourselves as “Campions of Venomere, Guardian of the Wood” as his name may still hold some sway with the towns people. Kessel, Maloc and Sorin were all past the point of exhaustion so we decided to take the dragons advice and rested for the evening.
Staring into the yellow eyes of the great beast I vowed to never again cower away from a tyrant and to protect those who could not protect themselves. We left in the morning and made our way to river town. The city was about 3 days travel from Venomere’s Lair.

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Chapter 14
The Would Be Wizard

There we stood, surrounded by a squad of well trained, well armored warriors brandishing spears and shields. The leader stepped forth and demanded, “Who set fire to the trees!”
Maloc hesitantly stepped forward and explained that it was an act of desperation, and that he in no way meant to destroy the trees. As he said so, he was quickly hushed. The leader of the warriors spoke with a booming tone, asking us why we were wandering around the wood destroying things. It was then that we asked about the guardian of the wood and told him we wished to seek his council regarding the location of the bandit hideout so that we could retrieve the dagger that was stolen from us which would be integral in defeating our bigger foe Stellian. Ridding the land of the evil tyrant.
The warrior seemed calmed by our noble cause and could feel the weapons that Albark gave to us. He demanded to see them as they were birthed by the forest itself, as we showed them he told us he would bring word to the guardian of the wood and allow him to decide if we were worthy of an audience. But in the meantime he would show us the way to the bandit camp.
With a mighty boom, the man transformed into a hawk and flew off into the darkness. We followed the call of the bird for a few more hours until early morning. We came across a Traveller searching frantically through his pack, looking for something. From the looks of his clothing Maloc determined that the man was in fact a Mage. As we approached cautiously the man turned startled when to heard us approach.
He introduced himself as Akar Kessel. Terios growled in response demanding to know why a squishy Mage would be traveling these dangerous woods alone, demanding to know if this was some kind of ruse.
Scared senseless by the beastman, Kessel proceeded to tell us that he in fact was not traveling alone, well wasn’t until just recently. He and his Mage master were set upon by a viscous beast. And while his master chased it away he succumbed to his wounds and died shortly after.
Based on the conditions of his clothing and the lack of blood on him, I was deeply skeptic of his story, so much so that I demanded he take us to the “burial site”.
Fear guided Kessel to oblige but not before he took a strong interest in Maloc. Understanding Maloc’s clothing to be that of a Magician he started asking him about all sorts of things related to magic. He then told us of a rare and talented gift he had. Teleportation.
Kessel could teleport simple and mundane items instantly through time and space. How ever he was limited to basic items, for any living or magical item would either return severely Deminished or worse, not at all. Kessel quickly learned not to anger the Minotaur as Terios nearly cleaved him in two when he transported his new gauntlets onto Maloc as a demonstration, weakening them.
As we walked Kessel explained ujs grand vision, not one of learning and study, as one would expect from a mages apprentice, but of gold, filthy dirty wonderful gold. A vision I took very kindly to. He spoke of a shipping service but instead of employing expensive transportation, he would be able to transport items all across the 9 realms in the blink of an eye, collecting fees in the process.
The idea was genius, and better yet Kessel was looking for partners! It seemed fortune had finally smiled upon us.
He traveled a little ways before we came across a mound of dirt at the base of a large tree. The body was barely covered by the dirt, hurriedly shoveled on top of it. I requested that Terios start to dig a proper grave as Sorin and I exhumed the body from its shallow grave. Before us laid the beaten and battered body of mordicai the red, Kessel’s master and friend. The slashes across his chest spoke volumes to the story Kessel told of the wounded Striga and the confrontation here. As we prepared the body for a proper burial I removed the mans blood stained cloak and replaced it with the robes we took from the fire cultist.
upon removing said garments I noticed a small pendant drapes around the wizards neck, and while nobody was looking, palmed it away into my pocket.
The Mage also carried a 50’ length of living rope, and two potions. An orange diamond shaped vial and another that appeared cracked and it contents spilled upon the forest floor.
After changing his dressings we lowered him into the proper grave places his wand in hand and placed 2 copper pieces on his eyes to pay the boatman to ferry him to the underworld. Then we buried the man and collected the remaining items.
Kessel was a little unnerved that we took the mages gear, but after a little pursuasion realized they this was the nature of the world. If we didn’t some other adventurer would.
Trusting Kessel’s story we invited him to travel with us until we could arrive at the nearest settlement. While he was a little hesitant he agreed. I gave him a dagger for protection and we headed back in the direction we came.
The sun was setting and we began to once again hear the call of our hawk guide.
He lead us further on to the base of a rock cliff. As we approached the hawk flew to the top and perched on a branch at the edge of the cliff.
Unable to see another way up I decided that I would scale the cliff and see what we had in store for us while the others rested. I ascended the first 100 meters relatively easy but as I continued I noticed the cliff face grew more and more difficult and found it hardend and harder to gain proper footing. Then came the noises, skittering of legs just in the edge of the darkness. Maloc had cast his Mage light to follow me up the wall, however it was losing its effect asthe noise came closer. I began to climb down the face as fast as possible repelling where possible, however the sounds closed in. As I reached the end of my rope I was still about 75 feet in the air. The rope gave way on command as it fell limp below. As the sound got closer i noticed dozens of glowing red eyes inching closer. The spider appeared to be the size of a mans torso. Unwilling to become spider bait I drew my crossbow and fired into the mass of eyes but lost my grip an plummeted to the ground below.
As I fell I made a last ditch effort to alert the others. Hoping Terios would be able to break my fall. As he did I saw his arms. But due to the waning Mage light he misjudged the location and I hit the ground directly between Sorin and Terios.
One would think that has to be the end of Dartanion right? If it was would I be telling this tale? I’m not scared of falling from extreme heights, no way not me. Gravity ain’t got nothing on me.
As I openned my eyes I expected to see the after life but instead all I seen was Terios ugly snout. My eyes shifted from side to side in confusion as my body relaxed and I sat up.
The others stood in amazement as I brushed the dirt from my jacket and hopped to my feet. I could feel a warm glow emminate from my breast pocket. The medallion I swiped from the Mage protected me from the fall.
The relief was short lived for moments later I was hurled back to the ground as if I had just been tackled by a ogre.
Kessel shouted in outrage, “You stole it, I can’t believe you actually stole from a dead man!!!” Kessel then told us the story of the medallion and its power to protect the wearer from pain only to delay it to a moment when the wearer loses focus, thus the way mordicai the red was able to fend off the Striga, afterhe chased it away, the cuts and gashes showed themselves and mordicai perished.
As I rolled on the ground I could feel two of my ribs were broken and breathing became laborious. I passed out a few moments later.
I awoke the next morning to the smell of warmed trail rations cooking on the fire. My midsection bandaged and my wounds beginning to heal.
Still angered by the events of the night prior Kessel began rethinking his earlier idea of partnering with us, however those thoughts were put to rest when Maloc offered his guidance and that of his tomes back in Goldenwood. As we packed the hawk transformed again and the guardian pointed in the opposite direction of the cliff and called, “to the west. It’s not far now!” Then he morphed back into bird form and flew off.
As we walked we told Kessel of the item and how we needed to retrieve it as a means of freeing our friend Sorin from his brother. And by doing do would provide him a safe haven for studying his craft. Kessel agreed to assist us in the matter. All that was left now would be to sneak into the bandit camp take the dagger and go get Sorin.. Piece of cake.
As we approached the camp we came across a guard patrol. We hid in the bushes when the guard approached. However Sorin attempted to draw the guard with a birdcall. A terrible one. Terios grabbed him and wrestled him to the ground to shut him up however the foliage did not provide enough cover for them both so as the guard approached he drew his spear. As his steps neared Sorin bit Terios’ hand to free his mouth so in retaliation Terios launched Sorin away in the opposite direction. Stunned in reaction the guard fumbled for his alarm horn to call the others. Luckily the diversion gave Maloc and I time to react. And before the guards horn could reach his lips the bolt from my handbow pierced his neck as he turned he let out a slight gurgle moments before Maloc’s magic missile dropped him to the ground.
Seeing an opportunity we stripped him of his armor and I put it on. Apparently while I was busy putting on the armor Sorin felt some strange urge to remove the man’s penis. To this day. I shutter at the chaotic nature of that mans mind.
I took Terios and Sorin’s weapons and tied them up with the living rope. We planned an ambush on the nearby guard, however as we approached he seemed confused by my choice to capture instead of kill on site, so as he reached for his horn I commanded the ropes to drop and threw my spear, unfortunately The spear sailed past the guard. It did however give Sorin the chance to hurl his dagger which struck true Imbedding itself through the horn and into the mans throat. We removed his armor as well and again Sorin removed the guards “weapon”
Sorin then dressed as the other guard and we walked together to ambush the last. As we approached he was leaning over a tree relieving himself. Sorin walked awkwardly over and stood beside the guard. Annoyed, the guard gave him a few choice words and turned away. When he didn’t move the guard looked closer and realized that Sorin was not his fellow guardsman. he scrambled for his horn but found my sword through his chest instead. After collecting another disguise we made our way towards the bandit camp.
As we approached, the camp was empty. Few bandits wandered from tent to tent, but a loud commotion could be heard from a large tent in the center of the camp, it was lunch time.
We quickly strategized that Kessel and I would infiltrate the camp while the others waited for our return.
We walked through camp and approached the dining tent, as we passed the openning we could see the entire bandit force within eating drinking and carrying on. And at the head table stood the man we knew as Jens. We attempted to sneak around to the back to get a better look at the dagger so Kessel could do his magic, but the sun was high and we determined it would be very suspicious for us to be slinking around the camp. So we decided to return to the others and wait for nightfall. Hours passed and the bandits all returned from their patrols. However three failed to report in (because they were dead) so the guards seemed to be on high alert.
In the time that had passed we decided that I would use my knowledge of the layout to get us to the tent with the least amount of notice. We would then enter the tent and take seats. I would stay towards the back to start a distraction, while Kessel would get a spot close enough to see the dagger and Maloc would cast small arcane fires to cover our escape. We proceeded as planned. We all took our places. Kessel view was affixed on Jens which cought the bandit leaders attention. The bandit leader seemed annoyed and demanded that he stop staring, when he didn’t he commanded his guard to make him. Seeing we still needed more time I began stumbling around drunk and spilt my ale on a nearby bandit. And instead if apologizing I cursed the man for spilling my drink and punched him in the face. When another guard grabbed me I stomped on his foot and head butted him in the chin, this did the trick as a brawl started to break out and Jens ordered the guard to forget about Kessel and stop the fight. By this time the fires began to grow and as the heavy guard approached I shouted out “fire!”. The flames began to climb up the tent walls and the bandit force erupted into a panic. They began throwing ale on the flames which only stoked blaze. Soon the whole dining hall was engulfed in flames. Maloc grabbed me from the brawl and we ran to Kessel, in hopes to catch up with Jens. We grabbed the would be wizard and escaped out the back. The camp was in a frenzy bandits were sloshing bucket to tame the flames and Jens was gone. We ducked into a nearby tent and tried to figure out our next move, Jens escaped us again. But as Maloc and I were discussing our next move Kessel turned to us and said, “…I got it”
Confused and unsure of what he meant we asked what he was taking about and he told us to look in the bag of holding. Maloc reached down and openned his pouch and there amidst the other disguises tools and items sat the dagger of Aurelion.
Having accomplished our task we returned to the others and escaped in the commotion. we then returned to the cliff and rested until morning.
In the morning the warrior again returned to us and told us that we would be granted an audience with the guardian of the wood, and such an audience was not optional. So we collected our things and followed the warrior to our meeting.
He lead us to a clearing in the woods where we approached a small hill, an overgrown pathway disappeared down into the hole. The guardian said nothing but simply pointed to the openning in the hill. We proceeded to descend into the blackness. As we walked we could see the walls turn from a mossy green to a cold dark grey, we had only been walking for a few minutes when the path opened up to a room of stone. As we entered the room the pathway behind us snapped shut.
The cavern before us was about 10 feet tall, and the only noticeable characteristics were the door behind us a giant slab door ahead of us, and a button located in the center of the room.
We aPproached the door on the opposite side but it would not budge. When we were unable to move it Maloc began examining the button in the floor. Seeing no magical or mechanical features he pushed it with his walking stick.
As he did we heard a large grinding noise as the ceiling began to lower. I immediately began searching the area for a trap box to disable the trap. But there was nothing, not a single secret lever or hatch. As the ceiling approached his shoulders Terios braced and tried to push back but the stone slab was too much and continued forcing him to his knees. Maloc pressed the button again and the roof retracted, reset and began dropping again. After some unsuccessful attempts to break the door, the roof and almost getting crushed to death. Terios had the bright idea of knocking on the door.
As he did the roof stopped, retracted and the stone door began to slide open. It appeared all we needed was a little manners.
As the door slide open it exposed another pass in the rock. This one leading to a far larger cavern, a cavern so large the light was swallowed by the blackness. As we stepped in the vast space we could feel a presence there with us something fast and large…

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Chapter 13
Consequences

Giving thanks to Albark we said goodbye and started back for the surface. As we climbed I explained to the others the clearing I spotted and how it had the highest potential for the base of the bandits. It was a two day trip by foot, and that if we pushed ourselves we could make it there by the following nightfall.
As we re-entered the forest the sun was setting, the last rays of sun disappearing through the trees. Darkness soon enveloped the forest and we were bathed in blackness. I lead the group through the trees while Sorin secured the rear, while playing with his new dagger. We were walking for about 2 hours before I noticed it, a faint whisper in the wind, a rustling in the bushes, we were being followed.
I signaled the others close, motioned to the trees and expressed my suspicions. Terios agreed and motioned me to stay and follow from a safe distance. He then turned back and shouted to the others. “It’s nothing… Sorin, you take the lead.” As they continued on I stealthily slipped into the shadows about 50 feet behind and kept my eyes trained to the surrounding blackness.
We moved about another 200 feet before I heard it again, this time the sound, accompanied by falling leaves and small twigs. The others heard the noise as well and readied for battle. Maloc crouched down, his arms flared out and rigid. After a moment of concentration he forced them together in a loud clap. With that, a bright flash of light illuminated the area and like a Bolt of lightning it was gone. While it didn’t last it gave me the much needed light Required to see our silent stalker. High in the trees, a hulking beast resembling a werewolf slipped behind a tree, then, it was gone. I moved to join the others and told them of what I saw. We all readied weapons and prepared for battle. Sorin snuck off to the side and disappeared into the shadow of a tree only the burning reds of his eyes could still be seen until they too disappeared. Maloc illuminated the area with a globe of Mage light, but the beast was nowhere to be seen. Then, masked by the darkness we could hear Sorin’s Dagger as it flew through the air and imbedded itself in its target with a “thunk”. A ferocious roar emanated from the trees as the dagger found its mark. Maloc flared his arms to the sky as a cone of searing flames burst forth and licked at the trees and and leaves. As the flames died, the trees were void of any sign of the enemy, just singed branches and the remnants of burnt leaves. The enemy then began its assault, moving with lightning speed, growling from tree to tree making it impossible to track it. I shifted off into the darkness and kept my eyes to the sky. Maloc tossed magic missiles in all directions attempting to strike the beast. Amidst the magical light show I noticed the rapid descent of the large beast directly above Maloc and Terios. Unable to help them I did what I could and shouted as loud as I could “SCATTER!!!!” Terios and Maloc dove from sight barely avoiding the razor sharp claws of our stalker. Terios collided with a tree as he staggered to his feet, while Maloc rolled deftly and regained his footing a few feet away. As he did he willed his Mage light to its maximum capacity and illuminated the field with white light. Seeing the beast for what it truly was, a grotesque Striga!
You see, the Striga is a foul abomination, the unholy result of the demonic possession of a recently deceased child. A striga’s power however is directly correlated to the events of the child’s death. The more heinous the circumstance, the more powerful the beast. For instance a Striga created from an accidental death, would be far less powerful than one created in a situation where the child is beaten and tortured before being murdered.
As the Striga recovered, it howled in anger at its botched ambush and struck out at the first thing it could see its razor sharp claws digging into Terios’ chest piece as if it were made parchment. As Terios recoiled from the attack, I drew a barbed bolt from my bolt case; the tip white hot, the feather replaced with trailing black smoke. The upper torso of the beast was muscular and rigid, however the lower half was scrawny and shrewd like that of a child. Using this to my advantage I took aim and fired hoping to cut or sever the beasts femoral artery crippling it and causing it to bleed profusely. My bolt found its mark as it punctured the striga’s thigh and blood began to spurt outwards in powerful bursts. Maloc, recovered quicker than Terios and began swirling his wand around his open hand, the flaming branches and leaves seemed to be drawn to the swirling flame as it culminated in a constant orb of fire in his palm. Then without warning Maloc hurled the ball of flame directly at Terios, connecting on his chest and bathing him in flame.
Moments later Terios was engulfed by the sacred fire. It bent to his every will and unlocked power that was hidden deep within. Seeing the “Flaming Hell Cow” strategy that Maloc was employing, Sorin charged out shouting commands and battle formations to the rest of us preparing us for an all out attack. As he sliced the Striga across the shoulder it wheeled around and swung just catching the chains of Sorin’s armor sending sparks flying.
With the attention of the Striga diverted, Terios released all inhibitions and gave into the rage as he roared out connecting with his mighty great axe not once, not twice, but thrice! The Striga grasped at its side as it howled in pain. The grievous injuries soaking the forest with the beasts blood, as it staggered back to recover.
As the Striga turned to lunge back at Terios, a strange whistling sound started emanating from the trees above. As a squad of armored soldiers dropped from the trees the leader spinning a spear (hence the odd wind sound.) the Striga turned and bounded off into the darkness.
As the leader stopped his spear they turned to us and again raised their weapons. Alas we found the guardians that Albark talked about. However they didn’t seem to friendly.

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